KISS Related

Mitch Weissman (2013)
Background vocalist/original "Beatlemania" cast member recalls his contributions to Gene Simmons' 1978 solo album and his work with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons on albums such as "Animalize" and "Crazy Nights," plus a potpourri of KISS stories and tangents.

David Snowden (2013)
Longtime KISS fan and former head of the Vinnie Vincent Invasion fan club talks "All Systems Go" and various KISS-related topics

Mark Opitz (2013)
Producer details his work on "KISS Symphony: Alive IV"

Bruce Foster (2012)
Grammy-nominated musician discusses working with KISS and playing piano on "Nothin' To Lose"

David Wolfert (2012)
Grammy- and Emmy-nominated producer recalls working with Peter Criss on his first post-KISS solo album, 1980's "Out Of Control"

Bob Ezrin (2012)
Legendary producer details "Destroyer: Resurrected" and the making of the album

Lydia Criss (2012)
Author discusses the second printing of "Sealed With A KISS" and various Peter Criss- and KISS-related topics

Jean Beauvoir (2010)
Songwriter/recording artist recalls collaborations with KISS on "Animalize," "Asylum" and more

Kenny Kerner (2010)
Recalling KISS' early days with the co-producer of "KISS" and "Hotter Than Hell"

Eric Singer (2010)
Exclusive interview with KISS' current drummer regarding a variety of topics

Ace Frehley (2009)
KISS' original Spaceman details his first studio album in 20 years, "Anomaly"

Bruce Kulick (2009)
Non-makeup-era axeman discusses KISS tenure and latest album, "BK3"

Mike Japp (2005)
A discussion with KISS collaborator on the "Killers" and "Creatures Of The Night" albums

Dick Wagner (2004)
KISS' favorite "ghost" guitarist discusses his guitar playing on "Destroyer" and "Revenge"

Jesse Damon (2003)
Former member of Silent Rage on his collaborations with Gene Simmons

Stan Penridge (2000)
Peter Criss' right-hand man talks Chelsea, Lips and working with the Catman

Bruce Kulick (1999)
Guitarist talks Union project with John Corabi, Eric Carr and ESP

Sean Delaney (1998)
A brief encounter with the "fifth" member of KISS

Bob Ezrin (1998)
Former KOL webmaster Michael Brandvold grills the legendary producer regarding his work with KISS

BK3 Is Kulick's Charm

By Tim McPhate

Say the name Bruce Kulick to fans who grew up as fans of KISS in the 1980s and 1990s and the following words are likely to come to mind: talented, professional, consistent, versatile, musical. Kulick came into KISS in 1984 at a point where all of the above attributes were needed, and then some. During his 12-year tenure in KISS -- from ghost spots on "Animalize" to his heavy stamp on "Carnival Of Souls" -- he was a consistent thread both in the studio and live, while showcasing an attitude conducive to a team environment. Along the way he showcased his six-string prowess and sensibilities across songs such as "Tears Are Falling," "Reason To Live," "Forever," "Unholy," "God Gave Rock And Roll To You II," "Hate" and many more. He was also a vital component of fan-favorite tours in support of "Hot In The Shade" and "Revenge" and the KISStorical "Unplugged."

The past decade has been an interesting one for Kulick, with the closing of Union, forays with former KISS-mate Eric Singer in ESP, his first two solo albums, and joining the classic rock outfit Grand Funk Railroad. But now Kulick is two months away from releasing his third solo album, "BK3," a body of work that has been incubating for three years. While beaming with pride for the album, he is also grounded, candid and genuinely excited to talk about the actual music, creative process and guitar technicalities. Kulick expresses a sense of satisfaction with what he has accomplished over his career, but there is also the sense that he was never content with resting on the laurels of his past musical shadow. KissFAQ caught up with him to talk about how he is looking forward to sharing his own brand of "Revenge."

KissFAQ: You've summarized "BK3" as being your "Revenge," which for non-makeup era KISS fans is high praise. Does "BK3" represent the definitive Bruce Kulick album to date?
Bruce Kulick: There's no doubt I spent enough time and energy and I feel extremely proud of it. I think it was worth the wait and the expense I undertook for it, because it was a lot of work. I really approached it with the attitude that this has got to be the best of me, in the way I felt the "Revenge" album was the best of KISS for the non-makeup era. I wanted this record to be up that kind of quality and I feel like [producer] Jeremy [Rubolino] and I accomplished that.

KF: You started recording "BK3" in 2006, so this has been three years in the making?
BK: Yes, it was a long journey. Obviously some of the songs didn't actually get finished because the album formula, or shall I say recipe, changed once Gene committed and offered up his son Nick, which was all really exciting.

KF: You partnered with quite a few artists and fellow musicians on this record from John Corabi to Tobias Sammet, the Knack's Doug Fieger and guitarist Steve Lukather. Was this the original concept from the outset or did it turn a corner when Gene and Nick Simmons became involved?
BK: There was never a big plan, except to make a great record. When some of the songs were being cut, Jeremy and I realized certain songs wouldn't be great for me to sing because that's not my best instrument, my guitar playing is.

After asking Gene to participate and him saying yes, we realized we would have a song for him, and that was going to be amazing. And then he said to me, "Hey, how about Nick?" And I said, "Ooh....okay. What song would he like?" We then showed him a couple of the tracks that we cut that we weren't really sure who would sing. But not everything was very tailored to any of these featured guests. It just kind of organically happened and I was very very pleased with everyone's contributions, and the result. I couldn't be happier.

KF: There is a diversity to the overall composition of this album, there are some rock and hard rock elements and also some pop and almost psychedelic textures as well. Between that, the special guests and time frame, how were you were able to keep a cohesive thread and continuity throughout?
BK: Well, Jeremy and I read each other's mind in some ways. And the time element didn't really affect how the album was going to come off. Each tune had to be killer and they are all different. But I think the glue throughout was my guitar playing. It didn't matter who the featured singer was, the guitar work kept it together and I was involved in writing every song.

KF: Can you talk about the creative process for "Ain't Gonna Die"? Did you and Gene co-write that?
BK: Actually, Jeremy was involved too. First, Gene and I were working and we kept hitting a wall and I was getting a little nervous. It was kind of strange working with Gene again. It was great, and in some ways it was very comfortable. But I was afraid that it may take a weird turn. So the next time we were going to write, I asked Jeremy to be involved and that kind of glued it together.

By then, Gene was singing out the words "Never going to die," or something. And then I really didn't know what he was thinking. But when some people write songs, often times some words will come out. Once "Ain't Gonna Die" had an arrangement, we did a couple of demos to show to Gene. And then we were ready to cut it but we didn't have all of the words done. But I had a clear concept and I told Gene that these aren't the lyrics, but I think this should be about how your legacy will never die. And I had the kick-off line, which I thought was really good, which goes "People say I'm always using my fame." And I wanted it to be more like the way a celebrity kind of wants to give TMZ the finger. Once Gene got that concept, he dialed right into it.

KF: I picked up a strong "Carnival Of Souls" vibe on this track.
BK: Yeah, and that wasn't a conscious thing either. It's just that I wanted it big and, in some ways, symphonic. There's strings on the track that Jeremy wrote some charts for. I wanted it to have this long kind of psychedelic ending and everything. It's really something I'm proud of.

KF: Let's go through a couple of other tracks. "No Friend Of Mine" is a personal favorite and was featured on the EP. How would you describe your and John Corabi's musical chemistry?
BK: Well, it's always very easy for us to work together. There was never really any stress, it was more about John moving to Nashville and when he was going to be in Los Angeles so we could get it done. Once he did, he was pretty clear about his approach on the song, the kind of angsty self-reflective point of view. We dialed it in and Jeremy and John did a majority of the lyric writing, and I was very pleased with the direction.

I knew the track was huge and John was really excited about it. The goal was something that would be as big and bombastic as "The Blue Room" Union record, or even better. And I feel we accomplished that.

KF: The album gets off to a moving start with "Fate," and the lyrical content is a snapshot of your days in KISS, complete with subtle KISS song references -- "Goin' Blind," "War Machine," "Paralyzed," etc. Intentional?
BK: Ah, the first person that caught it! Those words weren't put in there to be ultra clever, they just fit what I am trying to say. So, in some ways, they were definitely a tip of the hat to KISS but there's a reason to say, "Laser beam, war machine" because I was imagining myself on the stage, and certainly if you look at the lyrics it follows me along my journey within KISS.

The attitude of the song was always supposed to represent, "I am who I am and here I am...this is me and I'm not going to let anything get me down." I wanted everyone to know that I am not going to live in the KISS shadow. I'm really super proud of what I contributed to KISS and I miss being in the band and all. But it's still something to celebrate, not anything to feel like I am underneath them.

KF: One thing that is evident on the album through songs such as "Fate," "Final Mile" and "And I Know" is the projection of your vocals. Are you gaining more and more confidence as a singer?
BK: Well, I have to thank Jeremy for really pushing me. And sometimes we sang the songs two or three times to get it right...and it took that. My vocals weren't as produced on my other solo records so I feel like his direction and his insistence on everything being as powerful as it could be was part of the strength of making my voice come across in a more confident fashion.

KF: "Between The Lines" is a creative instrumental piece that grooves quite nicely and showcases plenty of musical chops. Between players like Jimmy Haslip, Kenny Aronoff and Steve Lukather, it would seem this would have been one of the more fun songs to record?
BK: Yeah, I was really honored they all got involved. That happened organically too. I knew I wanted to a great rhythm section but I didn't know Lukather would be involved right away. It was more kind of a connection to the studio. I was having a problem hearing back from Steakhouse [Studio], which is a popular place in North Hollywood. And when I didn't hear back from them, I didn't know what to do so I e-mailed Lukather and he said, "Hey, what are you doing? Let's have lunch!"

Next thing I know we're having lunch and hanging out, talking about the music business. Then I told him about the track and my intentions. And Jeremy was the one who said to me, "Get him to play on your song...that'd be great!" I was like, "What are you kidding me?!" I was going out of my mind...more scared about it then enthused (laughs). But then I realized that this is one of the real guitar legends and it's going to be fun to have an all-star band, and people know what I sound like. So let me have some interaction with somebody who is a monster on the guitar...why not? And the proof is in the track. It has a real energy to it that's very special.

KF: As far as playing the actual guitar parts, how did you and Lukather work them out?
BK: Really the only way to make it work with him was I already knew what my theme was, so the themes were there -- what you would call the choruses of the song. And then I had some ideas of what I wanted to play elsewhere, but I decided to let him come in and just jam. Then it was an interesting remainder of the afternoon with Jeremy putting together the best bits and pieces of what Lukather did. And all of it was brilliant, but it was just making sense of it, where it fit. Where the gaps were, I would answer him.

And it almost seemed like we were communicating in the studio but it was actually done afterwards. And it was the easiest way to do that because we didn't really have a master plan as to how the two guitars would communicate but we knew we were going to have great stuff from him, and I knew I could fill in the gaps as well.

KF: Jimmy Haslip played bass on that track and I recall reading that Jeremy Rubolino played some bass on the album. We know your history with playing bass on some KISS tracks -- did you handle the rest of the bass duties yourself?
BK: Yes, I always enjoy playing bass. Both Jeremy and I got to do some. In fact, on a song or two, he might even have grabbed the bridge of the song because he had an idea of how it should sound. But outside of Jimmy, the bass playing is me or Jeremy playing on the tracks. I have a killer 1966 Fender bass that just sounds like a monster and it was a lot of fun using that.

KF: I remember seeing a shot of that on your studio blog.
BK: Oh yeah. I love sharing that kind of stuff with my fans.

KF: Who are some of your favorite bass players and influences?
BK: Well, I love Paul McCartney and Jack Bruce, they'd be the first two. I think Chris Squire from Yes was an incredible influence as well. I like the guys that kind of do a lead-style bass but aren't necessarily stomping all over the song. I think Geddy Lee from Rush is brilliant too.

KF: Speaking of the Beatles, the closing track "Life" has a strong Beatles/George Harrison spirit to it.
BK: That's what I was going for. I loved the directions the Beatles would take a song sometimes...and it's also similar to a Tom Petty/Bob Dylan type of thing...reflective with the lyrics and the vibe that's coming across. George Harrison is a big influence for me and the Beatles, and that was as close as I could get to that. But that was in my head from the second I wrote it. I had all those chords and right away I was saying, "Life is a crazy game." I didn't know what else to say, it took me awhile.

And I actually had to buy an interesting book to help me with all of the other subjects I wanted to discuss. "The Purpose Driven Life," it's called, which is a pretty popular, somewhat religious book. It's one of those self-help-type things and it helped me with some of the song's key themes: faith, fear and dreams. Once I hung with that book, I put all of the pieces together for the lyrics and what I was trying to express. And the very ending of the song, of course, is the big celebration of life.

KF: Let's talk gear. Your guitar playing, both rhythmically and solo-wise, is excellent throughout "BK3." It's musical and complements the songs, and there are plenty of creative nuances, textures and tones. Roughly, how many guitars did you use on this album?
BK: Thanks. I have to say there are at least 50 instruments on the record. There's probably, more than likely, a lot of performances by about 10 or 12 of them, including acoustics and basses. That would be an interesting thing to do actually, to take an inventory of how many I used.

KF: How do you intuitively know when a song is calling for a Gibson-type tone, versus say a Fender or one of your ESPs?
BK: I kind of have a good sense of what is for the Fender or what is for the Gibson. You'll notice once you see the final album artwork, I didn't want to bog down the session for the photo shoot I did with Neil Zlozlower to have too many guitars. I knew I'd get an opportunity for him to shoot some of the guitars in my collection so I only brought two. And I always figure you can always break it down to a Fender Strat-style, or some sort of Fender-ish guitar, which turns out to be the ESP that's on the cover. That one, of course, has a Floyd Rose [tremolo system] and a humbucker, single-single [pickup configuration], so you have a lot of different tones.

I can certainly do my "Revenge" sounds with that or I can do Jimi Hendrix sounds with it, or Stevie Ray Vaughn or Pink Floyd sounds. And then a Les Paul is the other iconic piece that has to work. The one that I brought [to the photo shoot] was the one with all that KISStory. In fact, the digipak is a beautiful foldout that includes the brown case that it's in...that guitar has been on "God Gave Rock And Roll To You II" to Paul's [1978] solo record, because it was my brother's before it was mine.

KF: Amp-wise, still mainly Marshall?
BK: Yeah, I'm still a big Marshall fan. I have a go-to JCM-900 head that just sounds killer. I surround that with a few others, I have a triple-lead Marshall head, a Dual-Reverb. Then there's a '66 Fender Bassman head that I like to use for some colors. I've always liked a Vox AC30 for certain colors. The Vox is actually the same amp I used for some of the things on "Carnival Of Souls." We rented it and before we brought it back, I was like, "Okay, it's rented. I want to buy it now" (laughs). So I added some money and bought it. It's a great-sounding amp.

And then I like some of the smaller amps too. I have a couple of vintage Fender and Gibson amps and I also went towards a Tiny Terror that Orange makes and an Egnater Rebel 20. The cabinets are usually Marshall 4x12's with Celestion speakers.

KF: I see you also brought out the wah-wah on various songs, including the solo on "Hand Of The King." What wah-wah pedals are you using?
BK: Well it's a newly modified one by this guy that made me some pedals from McDaddy Music. I am also a big fan of the old Vox wah-wahs, but sometimes they get a little noisy and do some funny things so I don't always use them. It's either of those two.

Interestingly, related to the KISS world, the guitar that I played the leads for on Nick's track is actually a Paul Stanley Ibanez PS10. That's Paul's contribution to the record (laughs). I remember telling him about it and he was really flattered. This one sounds great and it came out of nowhere, as I didn't intentionally want to buy one. But a friend of mine in St. Louis came across this PS10 and said, "I really think you should have it." It's definitely something I want to hold on to.

KF: What was your philosophy with trying to capture your guitar solos on the album? Are you more a first-take type of player or do you play your best once you've taken a few passes?
BK: Lots of times my instinct is the first thing I go with. Although you don't really know what's going to happen, hopefully that takes you in the right direction, and then you just perfect it. Like the solo in "Life" was my first stab at it. It just wound up sounding really cool, and I just fixed it up a little bit. Even the solo on "Hand Of The King" was pretty much what I was hearing and then Jeremy and I added a harmony part and honed in on the right tone. You try to use your instinct and go for it and while you never know what's going to happen, you know when you're on to it. That's the important thing.

KF: Any plans for an official single in advance of the album?
BK: I think there might be a digital single for "Hand Of The King" but I am not sure as of right now. You know, for me I didn't make the album with singles in mind. My attitude was just to make the best record I could. If it turns out that that a song really draws people to the record, great.

KF: Touring plans?
BK: I am not sure how I am going to handle that between Grand Funk Railroad and everything else. I would like to say that I am going to try to get out there, but I just don't know how yet.

KF: You've partnered with Rocket Science, the company that also worked with Ace Frehley on "Anomaly." Will the album be available at chains like Best Buy and Walmart, and at digital retailers like Amazon and iTunes?
BK: Yes, it will be properly distributed, which is a very exciting thing for me.

KF: Grand Funk Railroad is another band which has quite a fan base all their own. How would you describe your experiences with them thus far?
BK: Grand Funk's a terrific group. I was very flattered when Don [Brewer] and Mel [Scacher] were looking to revamp the band and asked me. There's definitely a great chemistry to what I get to do with the guys. And I find that I add a definite element to the band and I get featured quite well. I am real fortunate that I was offered the gig. I know that a lot of KISS fans aren't that familiar with all the songs but once they see the band they go, "Oh yeah, I didn't realize that Grand Funk did that song."

And performing with them...you know Gene and Paul are such great performers it was always difficult to find your spot onstage, and I definitely have been featured with Grand Funk and I get a chance to really step out. It's a great gig for me and I think it's very exciting for the fans that know me. Every time we play we just go over really well with the audience. Sometimes they don't know who they are watching or too much about the band, but by the middle of the show they are completely blown away.

KF: Let's wrap it up with a couple of KISS-related questions.
BK: Sure.

KF: With the KISSology series, one of the things that emerged was the opportunity to look in the rearview at nearly the entire life of the band. And many fans were again able to take take notice of the vitality of the non-makeup era. Shows such as Detroit '90, Sao Paulo '94 and "Unplugged" all show a confident and musically strong KISS lineup that was able to do justice to virtually anything in the KISS catalog. Did you get a sense of pride in watching all that footage?
BK: Absolutely. I'm extremely proud. Obviously for the fans of KISS that were into the "other" eras and weren't strict about just the makeup era, they know what I've contributed and I think any of them that were appreciative of what I did are going to really enjoy "BK3." Because as much as I didn't make it for the fans -- you know, you do your own music for yourself -- I just know that if I am excited about something, they will be too. And so far the reaction has been great.

KF: Eric Carr's memory is continually celebrated to this day within the KISS fan community. What comes to your mind these days when you think of Eric?
BK: Well, it was another anniversary of his passing on [November] 24th, actually the night I saw KISS. Eric was real important to KISS, and I have to say that he, in some ways, got to connect with the fans. And in some ways, I think that KISS could have used him even more, if you know what I am saying...

KF: Yes.
BK: He had so many other talents with his vocals and songwriting abilities. Eric was such a great guy and he reached out to the fans. They all loved him very much. And it was a very very sad thing to lose him. How often do you lose somebody that young to such a terrible disease... It was pretty sad. But (pauses)...all I know, he is missed by the fans for sure.

KF: 2009, and now 2010, is shaping up to be an exciting time for KISS fans between the new KISS album, a new Ace Frehley album and now "BK3."
BK: Most definitely! I just want to say thanks to the fans and KissFAQ for all the support.

(KissFAQ thanks Bruce Kulick for his time and wishes him the best with "BK3." "BK3" will be available in the United States on Feb. 16, 2010, and on Jan. 29 in the UK. Meanwhile, download the "BK3" EP at iTunes. For more information, visit www.kulick.net)

December 4, 2009

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